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Third Avenue El

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Third Avenue El

Published ca. 1950s
Topics New York City

Impressionistic picture of the Third Avenue Elevated Railway in Manhattan, New York City, before it was demolished.

Run time 10:32
Producer Davidson (Carson)
Sponsor N/A
Audio/Visual Sd, C


An impressionistic picture of the Third Avenue Elevated Railway in Manhattan, New York City.

New York City


Reviewer: goth girl 10472 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 11, 2014
Subject: one of the most beautiful short films i ever seen
very beautiful short film. a real treasure showing a relic of the south Bronx past. the Third Avenue El. LOTS of thanksbn appreciation to the filmmaker n to the kind person who uploaded this gem. :-)
Reviewer: gasaxe - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 20, 2007
Subject: I'm impressed
It's a wonderful old school, foamer flick.
Reviewer: 38&3RD - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 9, 2007
Subject: Live There
I was 9 when the el was torn down. I lived on 38 & 3rd. When it went so did most of the people that lived there for most of their lives be they a child like me or a grandparent that had been there since birth or coming from the old country, wherever that my be. I will share this film with my children and their children. Thank you.
Reviewer: ERD - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 5, 2005
Subject: Superb documentary
Beautifully photographed & edited short historical film on the old New York Third Avenue El. Wanda Landowsky's harpsichord recording blends perfectly with the images.
Reviewer: transitfan - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 28, 2005
Subject: WOW, What a Ride!!!
This film takes a few viewings to fully appreciate all of the work that went in to creating it. Not only is it fascinating for capturing elements of a bygone era, particularly the el in Manhattan and the Bronx, but it is also captivating in how it presents the story.

With only a single dime to link "the day in the life" stories of the EL train together, this lovely vignette takes us briefly into the lives of its riders, the photographer, drifter, little girl and her guardian, and the young couple. The music really does work well, giving a frenetic pace on par with the demanding duties of the EL. The editing is quite well done (and matches the music very well), and the "special effects" (negatives, sepia tones) are quite striking considering just what had to be done to achieve them in this era. Many of the camera angles as well are of particular interest, leading the transit photographer like myself wondering just how they were achieved, particularly two scenes, one taken from inches above the rail as the train rumbles over some switchwork, and another from an elevated vantage on a swinging bridge over the East River.

Great stuff, and with great replay value!!!
Reviewer: kingacres - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 15, 2005
Subject: Stepping Back
This film is an exquisite gem! Simple, elemental and complete, it is a moving salute to a now vanished era.
It's also very personal since I rode the "El" many times as a kid. In fact, I used to commute to Stuyvesant HS from Yorkville every weekday. How I loved standing next to the motorman's compartment, looking out the window of the door at the onrushing tracks, passing trains, and the always spectacular skyline of the city.
I recall the announcement to tear it down as well as the "promise" to replace it with a Second Ave subway. That never happened of course and I have often wondered if real estate owners and developers didn't turn a trick to get city hall to approve the El's destruction.
I remember, in 1956, when it was bing torn down how sad it was to see the pillars, denuded of the track structure. I had the sense that I was looking at the stumps of amputees and they too would soon be gone. Later, when ever I turned the corner from 86th Street onto Third Ave. I always had the idea that I was looking into the mouth of someone who had lost its teeth.
Sure, it was obtrusive and noisy to those who lived near it but it was a great, even romantic, element in what was the best, most reliable and least expensive public transportation system in the world.
Here's to the "El" and the forward-thinking historian-filmmaker that made this priceless documentary.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 10, 2005
Subject: All aboard!
Third Avenue El is a unique film that exactly captures the essence of this almost-mystical subway line in New York. IÃÂÃÂve seen footage of this before, the Subway again looks way to close to apartment buildings, itÃÂÃÂs noisy and creaky etc. What WAS it about this line that makes everyone so nostaligic about it? One reason is quite posaibly the uniqueness of the line, as it looks to be completely elevated, and again, cuts through, and I mean, CUTS through neighborhoods etc.

In this award winning film, (It was nominated for an Oscar in 1956) we get sort of a slice of life in 1955 New York while whizzing by on this train. The train itself looks very oddly decorated I noticed, with itÃÂÃÂs patterned glass. Also, the people who rode the train seemed to be happy go lucky people, as compared to, I imagine, the vagrants and lowlifes it would have attracted (that dime wouldÃÂÃÂnt have lasted 10 minutes). Reccomended!
Reviewer: jsa78 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 1, 2004
Subject: Wonderful Film!
This is a great film if you are a NYC Railfan! Based on one of the car numbers the Train appears to be an IRT Elevated Division Gate Car train that dates Crica 1910. One of the cool things I liked was that the stations had many archetectural features as part of them. The IRT built many of its Elevated and Subway stations to be artitstic and archetecturly pleasing. If you like this film, check out and read about the Third Ave. El and the rest of the NYC Rapid Transit System.
Reviewer: AliceTeeple - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 16, 2004
Subject: stunning
Even though it's been gone for 50 years, the Third Avenue El still exists on this treasure of a film. It really felt as if we were right there along with the hobo, the young man, and the little girl. Beautiful shots, interesting plot context woven in there, and a lovely memento to something that obviously meant a lot to the filmmaker. Kudos to the Luke Wilson lookalike and the stuck quarter.
Reviewer: Umass_Kid - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 29, 2004
Subject: Rolling, Rolling, Rolling.
The shots of NYC are worth watching alone! Vintage trains, Historic Landmarks And great architecture Sum the Flick up well. WouldnÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂt it be great to be able to ride by other peopleÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs window and get a Sneak Peek? This was a well-edited film with great camera shots, Montages, and Photographic tricks. A must see for any Graphic Artists. Oh what I would give to have been able to experience this first hand.
Reviewer: dan b - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 8, 2003
Subject: Third Avenue El
This movie is so wonderful it made me feel like I've rode the 3rd ave el in a previous life. The scenes of the train twisting through the factories and apartments are stunning. It seems as if someone in their kitchen could have handed a sandwich to one of the passengers! The plot is delightful, centered around a single coin on the floor of the car. We see real life scenes of the Bronx, Bowery st., clothes lines strewn ala The Honeymooners and much more New York 1953. The music is the perfect companion to these incredible images. My wife and I sat in awe as this movie unfolded before us. What a thrill it would be if one could still ride the 3rd ave el. If only they hadn't...oh well, at least we have this movie. Our hats off to you, Mr. Prelinger.
Reviewer: DaveK - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 29, 2003
Subject: "Daybreak Express 2"
This short reminds me of the D.A. Pennebaker film called "Daybreak Express"(featuring the Duke Ellington track of the same name) also about the Third Avenue El and filmed around the same time. It seems that several movie makers must have had a similar idea of recording the final days of this El when it was announced it's days were numbered! And thanks to them we have these wonderful accounts of riding this famous and sadly departed line. Wonderful stuff.
Reviewer: RadioBilly - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 22, 2003
Subject: Shades of Manhattan Towers
All I can say is that I am thankful that once a long time ago someone had the idea to create this montage and found others to help bring it to fruition.

This was a wonderful way to experience something by being a spectator only and the artists let the process unfold in a fluid and natural way. It was fun to watch this. The music tickled the action in the right places and a wonderful vignette of a time long past, with all its subtleties and the things taken for granted were there for the viewer to take in.

This was a real gem.
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